Led by the Nogales, AZ-born and raised Sergio Mendoza (vocals, keys, guitars, drums, percussion, programming and horns) and featuring Salvador Duran (vocals), Sean Rogers (bass, vocals), Marco Rosano (sax, clarinet, trombone, keys and guitar), Raul Marques (vocals) and Joe Novelli (lap steel guitar), the Tucson, AZ-based collective Orkestra Mendoza have developed a reputation for a sound that draws from the musical traditions of the border; in fact, as a child Mendoza grew up listening to cumbia, mambo, rancheras, mariachi, rock ‘n’ roll, pop and others, and those various genres have influenced Mendoza and his work with Orkestra Mendoza.
Interestingly, at one point the collective had completely moved away from the Latin styles Mendoza had grown up with and had been largely focused on rock for the better part of 15 years — that is until the band’s 2012 return to form, Mambo Mexicano, which was co-produced by Calexico‘s Joey Burns. (Since then, Mendoza has become a frequent touring member of Calexico.) While that effort reportedly possessed a studied air and was somewhat tentative — as though it were the renewal of an old love affair, in which there’s a familiarity that’s both comforting and yet uneasy; Cumbia Volcadora, which featured Mexican electronic pioneer Camilo Lara was reportedly a more raucous affair; and other efforts found the act boldly employing a sound that possessed a variety of things in a such a way that sounded both familiar and alien.
“Caramelos,” featuring Salvador Duran is the first single off the band’s soon-to-be released album ¡Vamos A Guarachar! manages to possess a genre mashing style as you’ll hear the enormous tweeter and woofer rocking beats and synths of electronica, an impressive organ solo, the twangy pedal steel of country and western, a bit of mariachi here, a bit of mambo there, a bit of cumbia, a bit of flamenco, a bit of of this and a bit of that in a playful and stomping song that doesn’t quite sound like anything you would have heard recently, and they do with a mischievous, swaggering, danceable song. It’s the sort of song that much like the work of El Dusty and others, should remind listeners that the music from the American/Mexican border may be some of the most sonically inventive and challenging music you’ll hear in contemporary music.
The recently released video was shot by Josh Harrison at Tuscon’s RBar and features the incredibly dapper dressed band performing the song in the bar behind an incredibly colorful backdrop.